Generator safety tips

Published: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 @ 9:29 PM
Updated: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 @ 9:29 PM

Never run your generator in a garage, carport, crawl space, shed or porch. Place outdoors but under cover to prevent electrocution if unit gets wet. Be sure the generator isn’t positioned outside an open window, which can allow fumes into the home.

Use a carbon-monoxide alarm that’s battery-operated or has battery backup.

Never feed power from a portable generator into a wall outlet. This can kill linemen working to restore power or your neighbors who are served by the same transformer.
It also can damage your generator.

Don’t use power cords that are frayed, torn or cut. This can cause a fire or shock. Be sure all three prongs are intact and the cord is outdoor-rated. The cord’s wattage or amps must not be smaller than the sum of the connected appliance loads.

Store fuel and generator in a ventilated area and away from natural-gas water heaters. Vapors can escape from closed cans and tanks, travel to the pilot light and ignite.

Never have wet hands when operating a generator. Never let water come in contact with the generator.

Make sure you have the right cords and connectors.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says you should not use an auxiliary tank.

Most starters use rope pulls. If yours uses a battery, keep it charged.

Always turn the engine off before refueling and let the generator cool.

Don’t spill fuel. It can ignite.

Even in the off-season, your portable generator can become just that, at the hands of a thief. Permanently bolt it down or at least secure it with a strong chain and lock.

More information: Consumer Product Safety Commission

Need more power? Many homeowners opt for large standby generators

Large, permanent generators — also known as automatic standby generators — are more powerful and quieter then their portable counterparts. And newer models are better and less intrusive than older versions.

Most are powered by propane or natural gas stored in large underground tanks or are fed by service lines. That means no shuttling to service stations to fill gasoline cans.

They’re directly wired into the home’s circuit panel. When power goes out, just fire it up and flip a switch.

Some units have a “brain” that detects outages, automatically starts the generator, and switches circuits in seconds. When power resumes, the system flips back to the house circuit and powers down the generator.

Standby generators can range in power up to 45,000 watts — enough to power an entire large home.

Determining if you need a standby generator

List the appliances you’ll want operating in an outage and total the required wattage.

Most units range in price from $10,000-$30,000. You’ll also have to pay for a concrete slab, installation and wiring.

You’ll be subject to the laborious, and costly, permitting process used for new driveways, fences, shutters and roofs. You’ll also need to meet the rules of your local homeowners association.

You’ll need to be familiar with the manufacturer’s guidelines for placement and operation. Some homes will not have room outside to place generators and still have the required space for proper ventilation and to meet fire codes and zoning.

Finding a reputable company

Consumer groups and even the police in the past have dealt with complaints that generator sales and installation outfits took money and either delivered the generators but never installed them, or never delivered them at all.

Some companies poured just the concrete slab. Some delivered units but never pulled permits.

Make sure the company shows its license. Check for complaints. Get referrals.

Sources: Palm Beach Post archives, bobvila.com, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Florida Power & Light Co.

Pools: Before and after tips

Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 @ 9:15 PM
Updated: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 @ 9:15 PM

Don’t drain water from pool

Leave water level alone. Draining, so it won’t overflow, is pointless. If you drain it more than a few feet below normal and the ground gets saturated, the pool’s shell could pop out of the ground (even with concrete pools). Water provides weight to hold the sides and bottom in place.

Turn off power to the pump motor, lights and other equipment at circuit box. Disconnect gas from heater; if possible, have your gas supplier or pool service disconnect it to be safe.

Consider removing diving boards or slides if you fear they won’t be secure in high winds; if you decide to remove them, try to have a professional do it.

If the motor is exposed and you live in a flood-prone area, remove the pump and store it indoors. Otherwise, try to wrap it up with a waterproof cover and tie securely.

Remove automatic pool cleaners, pool blankets and covers, and take inside.

Super-chlorinate or double chemicals you normally add to reduce contamination and infestation by insects.

Stock up on chemicals to “shock” pool after storm.

Don’t throw patio furniture in pool to keep out of the wind; pool chemicals will harm the furniture and can mar the pool finish.


After the ‘all clear’

Call gas company or a pool company to reattach gas line to heater.

Don’t reconnect electrical equipment until you’ve removed debris from the pool with a net and power has been restored. Make sure electrical equipment is dry.

Do this as quickly as possible before bacteria starts to grow. Don’t use your vacuum; debris will clog it and the pump. Then, if the area around the pool is dry, start the pump. When draining the pool to proper level, remove cartridge filter or bypass the filter system. Super-chlorinate again.

Remove vegetative debris before treating water. Add 5 gallons of chlorine (based on a 15,000-gallon pool) and start pump after inspecting electrical equipment to be sure it’s dry. Reset timers, if necessary.

Closely watch the pump system through complete cycles for any problems.

Wait 24 hours to see whether water clears and turns blue. If it does, test water and follow instructions. If water is darker or black, pool may need to be drained, or partially drained, treated and refilled. Call a professional

Balance pool chemicals and monitor a few days.

Tips for coping with the stress after a hurricane

Published: Friday, May 13, 2016 @ 12:35 PM
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016 @ 12:35 PM

File photo
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

How will you cope? Authorities and mental health professionals offer these tips.

 

There is the rush to prepare, the nervous anticipation, the unsettling period during the storm, the loss of property, scavenging gas, or just living without power for a few days.

 

A hurricane experience can be incredibly stressful. In the weeks after Hurricane Wilma in 2005, nearly 1,000 people called a state mental-health hot line looking for help with problems such as depression and anxiety.

 

BEFORE THE STORM

 

Prepare early to avoid the stress of panic buying.

 

Storms are unpredictable, and their twists and turns can be maddening. Just prepare as if the storm will hit, and hope it doesn’t. Stay up on media reports and follow the instructions of local authorities so you’re not blindsided by developments.

 

Don’t go into denial. Don’t have a wild party. Storms are serious business.

 

If you live alone, plan to ride out the storm with friends or relatives, or consider volunteering at a shelter.

 

Try to exercise to burn off the nerves.

 

Now is the time to have a plan for how you will survive and recover after the storm so you aren’t overwhelmed by the task ahead.

 

YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD

 

Take the time now to get to know your neighbors. Share ideas about how you as a neighborhood will work together after the storm. Find out who has special physical or medical needs, who might need help preparing their house, and who might need assistance following the storm.

 

If you have a homeowners’ group, consider developing a plan or even holding neighborhood meetings in advance of the season. Consider following “Crimewatch” models.

 
Find out who might be out of town so you that can keep an eye on their place.

Claims: How to file, deal with adjusters

Published: Thursday, May 12, 2016 @ 10:43 PM
Updated: Thursday, May 12, 2016 @ 10:43 PM

What if you have to file a claim?

Take photos or video of your home to document your belongings for insurance adjusters. A free computer software program, www.insurancevault.net , will walk you through what are the key images to take. Make sure images are easily accessible immediately after the hurricane — not solely stored on a computer.

Save copies of receipts, purchase dates and serial numbers.

Start a disaster savings account so that money is available in a worst-case scenario.

Write down the name, address and claims telephone number of your insurance company, which may differ from your agent’s contact information.

Keep this information in a safe place and make sure you have access to it if you are forced to evacuate.

Keep materials such as plywood on hand in case you need to make temporary repairs after a storm. Take photos of the damage before you make repairs. Finally, keep receipts from your repairs so that your insurance company has documentation to reimburse you.

Also, document any repairs you make to your house after previous hurricanes. If you don’t, and suffer new damage in the same place, an insurance company could dispute that you ever used the money they paid you to make repairs.

Help adjusters – and others – find you

If you have to leave your home following a storm, it is helpful to leave a phone number where you can be reached somewhere on the outside of your home.

You can spray-paint the number on a piece of wood or on the side of your house. Paint your address and the name of your insurance company on the damaged part of your home for adjusters cruising neighborhoods.

Checklist: Inside the home

Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 @ 3:34 PM
Updated: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 @ 3:34 PM

Follow these steps in your home prior to the storm:

WHEN A STORM THREATENS

 

  • Seal key documents — including passports, wills, contracts, insurance papers, car titles, deeds, leases and tax information — in zip plastic bags and get into a protected, dry place, such as a safe-deposit box or home safe.
  • Monitor the news
  • Set the refrigerator to its coldest setting in anticipation of the power failing.
  • Fill the bathtub. It may be your main supply of water.
  • Stock heavy-duty garbage bags for post-storm home and yard cleanup.
  • Check flashlight and radio batteries and have extras on hand.
  • Charge rechargeable cellphones, drills, power screwdrivers, flashlights, lanterns and batteries.
  • Make sure you have enough toilet paper to last until you can safely get to the store again.
  • If you live in mobile home, you should evacuate if a hurricane of any strength is heading your way.
  • If you live in a hurricane evacuation zone, you must evacuate if an order is given. Please see evacuation zone maps (if available) to find out which areas must evacuate for Category 1 or 2 hurricanes and which must leave for Category 3 or higher storms.
  • Your first choice should be to stay with a friend or family member who is living close by but is not in a flood-vulnerable area.
  • If you plan to leave, start packing. Don’t wait until the storm is almost here to get on the road.

 

WHEN A STORM IS APPROACHING
  • Don’t be misled by landfall predictions. Strong winds could arrive hours before official landfall and be many miles away from the eye.
  • Move furniture away from windows or cover with plastic.
  • Move as many valuables as possible off the floor to limit flooding damage.
  • If possible, secure small, fragile and/or valuable items that could be thrown around if winds enter your home.